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8 things to pack when flying with young kids

By Tavish Becker
Planning a trip with kids is like moving an army. Proper gear and adequate provisions must be requisitioned, and one must do some serious scouting to establish whether the terrain is hostile or friendly.

That said, I have managed to knock up some serious air-miles with my two kids, travelling between Cape Town, London and New York and like any serious army general have now got my standard issue packing for the hand luggage of any trip.

I like to travel with a backpack rather than those sexy pull-alongs trademark of the executive traveller.

I have traipsed too many endless hallways of anonymous airports trying to juggle two kids who only want ‘uppies’ leaving me with no hands to pull or push my luggage along. A backpack leaves both hands free to guide children through the gates, coax them into x-ray machines and drag them onto travellators. Kids as young as 12 months can also carry their own small backpacks. Try to pack this yourself! You don’t want to make an unexpected find at the x-ray machine!

  1. Lindt Milk Chocolate balls. Delicious, yes. Necessary, you might think not. However once you have passed the dummy or bottle stage, the air pressure adjustment is hard on little ears. My kids are too young for chewing gum, but I have found that the individually wrapped Lindt chocolate balls – given out as the airplane starts its ascent and descent – take the perfect length of time to melt in your mouth. Also with the individual wrapping, it is easier to convince your kids that they are extra special taking off and landing treats only.
  2. Each member of the family should have a spare set of clothing in the hand-luggage. Projectile vomit can land anywhere, anytime! And inevitably the children spill their juice all over their laps.
  3. Also bring along a small bottle of fever/pain medication with its dispenser. A small tub of Zambuk (my lip-ice of choice, as well as a good antiseptic for a small booboo). The airline will have basic first aid stuff such as plasters, but it’s good to have your own brand of pain-meds. Familiar is better for children in transit!
  4. Nappies, wipes and a cloth. If your child is already potty-trained, remember that airline toilets are scary places for tiny folk who are not used to their toilets rattling, shaking and exploding whilst flushed. Try to get your potty-trained child used to wearing a nappy occasionally.
  5. Passports for all and unabridged birth certificates! You don’t want to get turned back at the gate.
  6. Familiar snacks like their favourite cookies or some biltong. Label each child’s cookies separately to minimise sibling conflict. The airlines do provide food but chances are they won’t eat much of it.
  7. An activity pack which includes a tiny blank notebook, crayons, and colourful spot stickers which they can use to create different monsters or patterns. You don’t want to invite a fight for possession on board, so make sure if you are travelling with two or more that you get exactly the same thing for each – same colour crayons, same spot stickers. Snap cards are also a big hit. I always take books for the kids and fight a losing battle with the airline’s programmes. So my advice is don’t bother, unless it has stickers and is small and lightweight.
  8. And then your child’s comfort object – bunny, monkey, dummy, bottle, whatever. Don’t ever forget this. Ever.

Remember you will be carrying this backpack through the transit areas which are lengthy! Keep it restrained!

Try to put coats and winter gear in with your main luggage. They will weigh you down and are not necessary in transit.

A note on bringing your stroller along. The airlines allow you to do this and it is useful whilst traversing the airports. However after a few disasters with this, I don’t recommend it. Once my kids baulked at sitting in the stroller and then my hands were full trying to push the stroller whilst they ran amok between the airplanes!